Council: Time for Community Centre rethink?

Garstang Community/Business Centre
Garstang Community/Business Centre

A new delegation looks set to seek urgent round table talks with Wyre Council about the future of Garstang’s Community and Business Centre following this week’s Garstang Town Council meeting.

Coun Sandra Perkins acknowledged that maybe the Town Council had misjudged the strength of local opinion in favour of retaining the Centre and Coun Alan Cornthwaite said the time is not right to dispose of the asset.

Their comments came as local resident Mr Robert Lobell was advised to seek a meeting with Wyre after he arguedthere had been confusion over the events leading up to the proposed sale of the High Street flagship building to preferred developer Keyworker Homes North West which has bid £1.6m for the buildings and car park.

Garstang’s monthly Town Council meeting on Monday night had moved to a new venue - the Arts Centre, because of the anticipated large public turn-out.The Centre’s school room was filled to capacity as local residents poured in to debate the wisdom of and raise concerns about selling the Community and Business Centre and adjoining car park site. Clerk Edwina Parry stressed that the Town Council meeting was not and must not become party political, reminding all those present that councillors were there to serve the community.

As impassioned debate continued in the meeting’s public session attention once again focused on the Town Council’s decision not to buy the property for the below market value price of £230,000 offered by Wyre Borough. Mr Lobell, said that confusion had arisen over the listing of the bulding as a community asset - which gives community groups an opportunity to bid for the property but not an automatic right to buy and Wyre Council’s own offer to sell the property to the Town Council. He argued the £230,000 offer should still stand: “It seems to me that actually what was offered was a community asset transfer under a separate piece of legislation.”

Mayor Coun Lynn Harter told him: “I think you have to take that to Wyre Council”.

Applause greeted Town and County Coun Sandra Perkins’ comments: “At the time the decision was made we as councillors were not aware of any public feeling on this because so many came forward. The fact is that so many people have lobbied councillors outside meetings... I think we as a Council should look at this. We didn’t realise the amount of public support.”

She said if there were any doubts about the route followed so far it was up to town Councillors to do something about it.

Borough Coun. Lady Dulcie Atkins, who was among the public attending the meeting and is a former town councillor, suggested a meeting be held with Mr Lobell and Wyre Council’s Chief Executive Garry Payne. Questions could be emailed.

Meanwhile another member of the public asked if the High Street car park is registered as a public .

Richard Whyman queried why there was just one bid for the Centre and was told Wyre Council had put the the sale out to open tender. He highlighted how the town would be left without any general purpose community hall of its own. Applause followed his comment that a clear message needed to be given to Wyre to “review the process and don’t you dare take the money out of town.”

There was also applause for Town Councillor Alan Cornthwaite when he argued that potential impending large scale local development meant it would “ludicrous” to let the site go at this time. It was premature to be be discussing its value before a new Local Plan had been agreed.

*Following last week’s Courier exclusive naming the preferred developer Wyre Council’s Chief Executive Garry Payne told the Town Council

parts of the Community centre and car park site are subject to various covenants and access rights. He said Keyworker Homes was in the process of developing “concept drawings” which both takes into account those issues and reflect “the nature and location of the site”. The company had promised that prior to submitting any formal planning application it would speak to and share the concept drawings with the Town Council for comment and a 3/4 day public exhibition and consultation event would be held.